In an interview this week with Joan Biskupic of Reuters, Justice Ginsburg shot down rumors that she will soon announce her retirement from the Supreme Court, despite admonitions that she should do so to ensure that President Obama would name her replacement and to avoid the risk that Republicans might win control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
Justice Ginsburg’s medical history includes treatments for cancer in 1999 and 2009, as well as falls in her home that left her with fractured ribs, one last year and one in May. But the 80-year-old Justice has recently begun wowing her colleagues, clerks and others with a personal trainer and skills she never had before. “When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz,” she told the Washington Post. “Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”
According to Biskupic’s story, the Justice
is keeping up a typically busy summer of travel, at home and abroad, beginning next week with a trip to Paris. Ginsburg said she was back to her usual weight-lifting routine and recently had good results from a bone density scan….
Before Obama’s 2012 reelection, Harvard University law professor Randall Kennedy stirred public debate with an April 2011 essay for the New Republic urging Ginsburg and Justice Stephen Breyer, now 74 and also appointed by Clinton, to retire to ensure a possible Republican president not fill their seats.
On Wednesday, Kennedy repeated his sentiment, telling Reuters he still thinks that “the responsible thing” would be for Ginsburg to step down. “It seems to me that a justice should take into account the politics surrounding confirmation and not allow (an) opportunity to fall to a Republican,” said Kennedy, who was a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall.
University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, who has studied judicial nominations, said Wednesday he expected to see “opinion leaders trying to shape attitudes” among the public as well as “efforts through back channels to increase the pressure for her to step down.”
In her interview, Ginsburg referred to past liberal commentary and predicted, “That’s going to start up again.”
Brushing off political calculations, she said, “It really has to be, ‘Am I equipped to do the job?’ … I was so pleased that this year I couldn’t see that I was slipping in any respect.” She said she remains energized by her work as the senior liberal, a position she has held since 2010 when Justice John Paul Stevens retired, and calls being a justice “the best job in the world for a lawyer.”
She has previously said she wanted her tenure to at least match the nearly 23 years of Justice Louis Brandeis, which would get her to April 2016, and said she had a new “model” in Justice Stevens, who retired at age 90 after nearly 35 years on the bench.
Reinforcing the message that she might not leave before her health requires it, she mused of another former colleague, “I wonder if Sandra regrets stepping down when she did?”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January 2006 at age 75 to take care of her husband, John, who had Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 2009.
Ginsburg, who picked up the mantle of the liberals after Stevens’ departure, took the unusual step of reading three dissenting statements from the bench in the final week of the term. Dissenting justices typically issue their statements only in writing. During one of them, on June 24, the media commented on the antics of Justice Samuel Alito, who had written the majority opinion in a job discrimination case Ginsburg was protesting, Vance v. Ball State University. As she spoke, he conspicuously rolled his eyes and screwed up his face.
Alito did not respond to a request for comment.
Ginsburg said she was oblivious, and only learned of his behavior from her law clerks. When she read another dissenting statement from the bench the next day, “he did not make any faces.”
Was she insulted? Her answer appeared to allude to Alito’s nationally televised grimace and mouthing of “Not true” in response to comments Obama made in his 2010 State of the Union speech about a court campaign-finance ruling.
“I’m in such good company,” said Ginsburg. “I’m in the company of the president.”